I Love 9 Months, a startup, provides virtual and offline support to expectant and new mums through its mobile app, birth companion programme, and breast-feeding and lactation pods.
I remember when I was pregnant 20 years ago, I lived thousands of miles away from family and had no support system during that time apart from my husband. I was 25, working a 10-hour shift, and each day began with doubts, fears, and apprehensions. What to Expect When You Are Expecting became my Bible and an older colleague, my confidant. I must admit I passed the nine months in trepidation, hoping they would get over quickly.
But today, women have the choice to opt for premium pre- and post-natal care. Thanks to 360-degree startups like I Love 9 Months, based in Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad, which provide virtual and offline care and also products that enable pregnant women and new mums with all the support they need.
Birth of an idea
The brainchild of three women – Anjali Raj, her mother Ganga Raj, and Suma Ajith – I Love 9 Months has a unique, three-pronged approach.
It offers a mobile app for accessible, virtual support, Sahodari (a birth companion programme) and premium home care support, and the Breastfeeding Pod for public places and Lactation Pod for corporate offices.
Anjali’s cross-disciplinary education proved to be the deciding factor for I Love 9 Months. Apart from a BBA from ICFAI and scholarship from University of Warwick to pursue a PhD (she is currently in her third year), she has multiple professional qualifications as a Lamaze educator, lactation educator, yoga instructor, and a diploma in hypno-birthing, among others. Ganga Raj ran a successful fitness studio in Visakhapatnam while Suma Ajith was a highly qualified operations expert in the Australian healthcare system.
The women had a common goal – to offer maximum accessibility and affordability – and so decided to start I Love 9 Months with a mobile app. Anjali says that it took them almost a year to create the first complete version.
“We were located in Bengaluru when we launched. We moved our office to Kerala as we got funded by KSIDC and KSUM to scale our model within Kerala. Our team was split between Trivandrum and Hyderabad as we were incubated and accelerated by t-hub and ISB in parallel. We launched our home care service, Sahodari, and our latest product, Domatio, the breastfeeding pod, in Kerala. The Kerala government has been increasingly supportive of our work and has given us the scope to scale in the state,” she says.
Virtual and offline support
The startup’s target audience is Indian pregnant and postpartum women who own a smartphone.
“We have users from different countries across the world, and a majority of the users on the first version of the app are from Tier II and III cities and small towns. We have customers who have started with us pre-pregnancy and gone on until breastfeeding,” she adds.
I Love 9 Months piloted its first breastfeeding pod in a restaurant in Thrissur, Kerala. Anjali tells us that since they installed the pod, the number of people coming to the restaurant has increased and families with infants have become loyal customers.
The lactation pod has also been set up in Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram. Working women can use the pod during office breaks to pump and store breast milk in the fridge provided.
The Birth Companion programme now available in the city comprises visits by experts that cover breastfeeding, emotional health, diet, exercise, the baby’s immunisation and development, and Ayurvedic massage for mom and baby.
Since its launch in September 2018, Sahodari has supported 150 women with seven opting for premium home care services. But its biggest success has been Domatio, the breastfeeding pods. Within a month of launch, it has received a contract from Kochi Metro to set up breastfeeding pods at all 16 stations in the city.
Funding and revenue
I Love 9 Months has been seed funded by two major state government agencies, KSIDC and KSUM. Other than that, friends and family and HNI funding have also contributed to the pool. “We are now ready to go in for funding from angel/ early stage investors to fund early growth. We might even consider going the debt route in early stage,” Anjali says.
While there are plenty of players in the pregnancy and post-pregnancy space, Anjali believes their startup is the only one that supports women through the complete journey towards motherhood.
As a business model, I Love 9 Months offers a lot of content free of cost. Revenues come from premium services, like expert consultation (doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, lactation experts, pregnancy exercise coach, etc), home care services, and breastfeeding and lactation pods.
“Our vision has always been to enrich the life of pregnant women and mothers by creating affordable and accessible products and services for various pain points they face during their journey of motherhood. The name of the company- I Love 9 Months comes from our vision. We want every mother to enjoy her nine months of pregnancy and beyond!”